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Types of Waterfalls

Waterfalls are just one of the many types of water features within the Park. Please enjoy them and savor the peaceful feelings they generate.

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Lewis Falls

Lewis Falls in the Fall time...

Bighorn Sheep Ram Herd

Summer herd of bighorn sheep rams...

Grand Geyser

Grand, on right, Turban, and Vent Geyser erupting...

Firehole River

Firehole River with steam rolling out of Grand Prismatic and Excelsior Geysers in the background...

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Types of Waterfalls in Yellowstone


There are three types of waterfalls: plunge, horsetail, and cascade. The type of falls depends on how the water drops down and how much contact there is with the rocks below/behind the water.


Water free falls for some or all of its height without touching underlying rock or is nearly vertical in descent.

Lower Falls is a plunge type of waterfalls
Gibbons Falls a horsetail falls


Water descends rapidly down a near-vertical wall while maintaining some contact with the underlying rock.


Water flows over a series of rocks or down a broad rock face with many leaps or segments.

Lewis Falls an example of a cascade type of waterfalls

Navigate to: Introduction or Waterfalls Map

All definitions comes from the Rubinstein, Whittesey, Stevens book listed below.

Rubinstein, P. W., Whittlesey, L. H., and Stevens, Mike. The Guide to Yellowstone Waterfalls and Their Discovery. (2nd Ed.). Pages 27-28. Eaglewood, CO, 2000: Westcliffe Publishers.

Search the Internet and you may be able to find a reasonably priced used copy of the above book to help you explore Yellowstone's waterfalls.


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